How-To Geek

What You Said: Favorite File Search Tips, Tricks, and Apps

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Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite local file search search tips, tricks, and apps. Now we’re back to share the wealth.

On Wednesday we asked you to tell us how you find your local files faster and more efficiently. You responded in force with a variety of tricks and apps in tow. By far the most popular suggestion was Everything from Void Tools. CaryO writes:

Nothing beats Everything. Old and tired looks-wise but incredibly fast and helpful. I install this on every computer I work on and the users always look at me like I’ve just created a new lifeform. “Why isn’t this part of Windows” is question #1. :-)

Rich writes:

“Everything.” Small, fast and light. And it finds everything, everywhere, even on external USB drives. And did I mention FAST!?!?

Guidez combined their favorite task launcher with their favorite search tool for maximum speed:

I combined Launchy and Everything together so I use the ALT-TAB command then search for files! It’s very practical and fast.

Neelanshu Jain writes:

My one and only favourite that I suggest to each of my friend : “Everything”.

It’s the best and perfect search tool for my 5.5TB storage, just had to save the files with proper names.

That last sentence is key and highlights the only downside to lightening fast Everything. Everything is as crazy fast as it is because it searches the NTFS file table. Results are as close to instant as possible. The downside is that it relies exclusively on file names so if you name a file (or fail to rename a file from) 123456.ppt you likely won’t find that file very easily unless the directory structure you saved it in offers a clue.

On the topic of indexing file content, David offered some tips:

Indexing by filename: Locate32 for quick search for that file whose location I can’t quite remember- or for finding odd files created in odd locations by installations – e.g. that downloaded msi.. and it’s better than Everything ‘cos it adds file content search (non-indexed). However, as it doesn’t automatically update, a quick re-index is needed to find recently added files.

Indexing by content: Google Desktop has ceased being supported – such as its support was. And it is a limited indexer compared to Copernic, which I therefore use.

But, with the Omnipage GDS Indexer plugin, Google Desktop search still rules for scanned text documents (or similar).

With a three-prong approach like that, it sounds like it would be tough to miss a file!

Have a search tip or trick? It’s not too late to join the conversation. Sound off in the comments below with your local file search!

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/9/11

Comments (7)

  1. Keith
  2. Rush

    Everything works well to a point. Finds Folders & Files, but when looking for a File it finds the File, but it does not give you the Folder it is in.

  3. oss

    Agent Ransack is the best.

  4. Anonymous

    It’s amazing to me that there is so much demand for search apps when it’s probably not even necessary. Personally, I hate apps that search out local files for me because it might mean I’m a bit of a slob.

    I mean, how hard is it to classify files and put them in segregated folders – or even the folders themselves? You pretty much only have personal data to keep track of like pictures, music, video and data files (such as spreadsheets, documents, etc.). And it can all be kept organized using some kind of segregated filing system too. It’s just not that hard to keep organized and you should never need to search for any of your stuff if you (always) know where it is. But organization and habits are the keys.

    Even when it comes to apps or their support files you shouldn’t need to search for them. Maybe someone like a coder (programmer) or database administrator might need to, but that would be rare. About the only reasons you’d need to search for an app is if you use portable apps (which don’t make their own links), or if links to your existing app(s) somehow got deleted. Even so, assuming you even need links, can’t you restore or create links too?! (Hint. Hint.)

    And sure, there’s going to be clutter once in a while. But I hardly think that if the clutter grows so big that you would need help finding things. Quite frankly, being messy like that can be a sign immaturity or even indicate personal problems. Because when you throw your stuff in all directions, or even in one big pile like that you kind of re-emphasize the fact that you’re a slob and/or just don’t care much about anything. To me, this sounds mostly like immaturity where a lack of discipline is the problem. But it could also/instead indicate even bigger problems like a mental disorder!

    Then again, apps like iTunes don’t exactly help things either. iTunes in particular is horrible for any kind of concise understandable file structure. And it may be the exclusive fault of iTunes (maybe a few others) that have caused so many people get into these sloppy file habits. (I’ve always said the “i” in any Apple product really stands for “idiot” or “idiotic.”) Because quite frankly, keeping your stuff organized is not that hard. But it does require a little effort. And if you stay organized you’ll almost never need help finding things.

    (Is my military background coming though yet?)

  5. Lee

    I find SearchMyFiles is great. It has the ability to search text within files which is what I miss on win7 and SBS (why did Microsift remove it?)
    It’s also pretty fast too.

  6. miry-mir

    yeah? and what about embed windows search 4.0 ?


  7. hariks0

    In Launchy, one can type the middle or last part of the file name also. Like for example, to search for “Contact number and email address of family and friends.xlsx” one can type “and email” or “family and” or any of the words in the file name.

    By pressing Tab, there are other options like Open containing folder etc. The mouse over result file list shows the path also.

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